Celtic knot symbols date back to around 450 AD and richly characterise Celtic art and tradition. The Celtic knot is also referred to as the mystic knot or endless knot. Its basic characteristic of having neither an end nor a beginning, in fact, relates it to the theme of continuity and timelessness, while its interlacing feature suggests interconnectedness.
The most well-known Celtic knot symbol is the Triquetra (above), which has a number of different interpretations.
According to many schools of thought it is a Celtic symbol of the three forces of nature – earth, air and water, or the three earthly domains – earth, sea and sky.
Others suggest that it symbolises the triple aspect of the Goddess, i.e. Maid, Mother and Crone.
The shape of the symbol, in fact, consists in three interlocking pointed ovals known as vesica piscis, which represent the birth canal and are frequently found in Celtic symbols of the Divine Feminine (see Sacred Well, Sheela-Na-Gig).
This symbol was later incorporated in Christian art as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.
The so-called ‘Lover’s Knot’ (left), which is found carved in stone at Meigle in Perthshire, Scotland, is made up of four Triquetras enclosed in a circle, which symbolises both the feminine and the Sun, an important element of Celtic religion.
The Triskele (right), another sacred symbol to the Celts, represents the eternal rhythm of life and, like the Triquetra, the three-fold nature of the Goddess.
Celtic knotwork, or interlacing, is found on most ancient Celtic stone carvings and crosses. It is also a central decorative feature of the famous Book of Kells, the work of 7th Century Christian monks. In this consecrated form, though the original pagan symbolism is ‘converted’ to Christian symbolism the beauty of the intricate and perfect interlacing is equally powerful.